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Simple products with custom options vs configurable products

In case you sell goods that come in variations, like combinations of color, size, material, etc to select from, in Magento they can be created as simple products with Magento custom options or by means of configurable product with associated simple items.

At the front-end, both entities look relatively the same:

Configurable product on storefront
Simple Products with Custom Options VS Configurable Products

Simple product with custom options on storefront
Simple Products with Custom Options VS Configurable Products

What screenshot stands for what products type? Actually, you will never know checking product from the front-end. All the truth is revealed when you log into your back-end and inspect each of products.

While for customers there is no difference in product appearance, the product setup is completely distinct. So let’s see how each is configured and how they differ.

Simple Products with Custom Options

We start from simple products, as their name speaks for itself and their setup is ... simple or at least simpler.

In ‘Custom options’ tab you can add as many options to select as you wish. Generally, there are options of different types, though for product combination the best options are select ones, preferably drop-down.

From one and the same page you can input option title, values, SKU (optional), extra cost depending on option (fixed or percentage from main product’s price) etc.

This is how custom options configuration looks like from Magento admin panel:

Simple product with custom options in the backoffice
Simple Products with Custom Options VS Configurable Products

This is main info on custom options that you should be acquainted with. If you would like to find out more, check this article for further reference:

Configurable Product with Associated Simple Items

Configurable is more complex since it is multi-component product type. It acts like parent product that gathers on one page individual simple products (child items) that can be sold separately. For example, selling dresses in black, blue and green colors and small, medium, large sizes you will have to create all the 9 combinations: dress black S, dress black M, dress black L, dress blue S, dress blue M and so on.

Creating configurable product you will get ‘Associated Products’ tab in edit products form, where you can create and manage associations:

Configurable product in the backoffice
Simple Products with Custom Options VS Configurable Products

As you can see, you need to spend more time on creating all the variations. You can cope with the task faster with Store Manager for Magento that allows to generate an unlimited number of variations on-the-fly in 2 clicks.

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Here is how it works in action -

Comparison of Custom Options and Configurable Products

Both approaches are aimed at creating customizable products in your web shop. They help you create a base product with definite characteristics which are customizable: your clients select variant suitable for them. However, there is the difference in the outcome you get.

For better visualization, check the comparison table of simple product with custom options vs Magento configurable product with associated products.

Characteristics custom options of simple products configurable product with associated products
Inventory Management Inventory of custom option variants cannot be managed Inventory management possibilities, since each variation is basically separate simple product with its inventory
Level of control No control of variations in case you have several custom options like color and size Flexibility and control over all variations including pricing, sku, etc
Easier to work in case you have... Limited number of variants - for example only few colors Big amount of product variations
Ability to sell each variation separately No Yes
SEO-friendly No Yes
Filtering/Search Not available Available
Complexity Easy to create such products Creating configurable product is quite complex task, and requires specific data to be added

From the first sight, Magento configurable product doesn’t seem to be an attractive solution, since it brings lots of work. From this point of view, custom options are easier to configure, but do not rush to conclusions too quickly, as configurable product has its own advantages that make the process totally worth efforts.

Using configurable product you will be able to create different product variations and sell them as a part of configurable products as well as independently. Each variation is basically separate product with its own SKU. So this is great approach from SEO viewpoint, as all your simple products will be indexed by the search engines.

With configurables you can track inventory for your product combinations, so in case you are running out of dress size S color white, that variant will automatically become not available for purchase. So this way you can avoid backorders and unsatisfied clients.

Magento custom options do not allow to set quantity of combinations. They are good for online merchants selling items with an unlimited stock number, for example, warranty or other services.

Generally, it’s up to you to decide whether to use custom options or configurable product. Now when you know the difference, hope that you will consider what is the best way to manage your variations in Magento, taking into consideration all the points mentioned above.

In case you by chance first create simple products with custom options and then change your mind in favor of configurable, check the article on how to convert custom options into configurable products -

Download Store Manager for Magento to manage custom options and configurable products easier!Download FREE

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